An Accidental SEO Experiment

Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls Canada, Horseshoe FallsIt’s been 50 days since my last blog post.  Fifty!  That’s a long time for me since I aspire to post weekly (or at least 3x/month).  The reality is, summer simply got the best of me.  I was busy with work, busy with consulting, busy with college visitation road trips, busy with networking, busy with public speaking and busy relaxing.  Busy, busy, busy for fifty days!

My unplanned absence from blogging led to an accidental SEO experiment.  Even though my site contained relatively no new content, I had enough blog posts published (77 of them!) that it still produced a decent number of site views.  While the average number of weekly visits saw a small but gradual decline compared to previous months, it was relatively unchanged during that period.  One could argue that a slight downturn in the summer isn’t necessarily unexpected, given vacations and other distractions compared to other times of the year.

So what does this mean?  Can you simply stop what you’re doing, put your feet up on the desk and wait for the phone to ring?  Absolutely not!  My previous 77 posts took time and effort to write.  There was SEO coding that went with it.  The posts were promoted using social media channels and sometimes referred to in comments left on other blogs.  It’s because of that effort my site continued to attract daily visitors to multiple pages.  Imagine how many more visitors I would have had with new postings on a weekly basis . . .

Whether a business, freelancer or job seeker, my accidental SEO experiment illustrates that original content, SEO coding and social media promotion and activity will bring visitors to your website.  The simplest analogy I can make is to gardening…  If all you do is scatter seeds, you’ll probably see some growth in your garden.  But if you take the time to organize what you plant and spend some weekly maintenance on it, you’ll see a bigger return on your (work) investment.

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Top 10 Blogs That Help My Career

I’ve become a regular contributor to the Career Development Carnival, a monthly collection of blog posts on career development.  This post reflects the submission theme for the May 2013 Career Development Carnival.

Arthur Catalanello Most Interesting Blogger In The WorldI may not be the most interesting man in the world, but I do enjoy a varied career.  I focus on marketing, social media, advertising research, market research. I also volunteer with The August Group and my efforts focus on career development, job search, personal branding and networking.  My Top 10 List is a reflection of these varied interests.  Some of them are not technically a blog, but a valuable resource nonetheless.  I also wanted to note that I’m intentionally not including the Career Development Carnival, Hannah’s blog or Lynn’s blog.  They are all excellent but should be a given for this particular post!  🙂

Here is my top 10 list in alphabetical order with descriptions and links:

AdAge – They claim, “Ad Age makes people smarter in their jobs in advertising, marketing and media through analysis, insights and news with an objective point of view.”  You can subscribe to 11 different email lists on various industry topics.

Freelance Folder – According to their website, “FreelanceFolder is a community for freelancers, entrepreneurs, work-at-home business owners, and web-workers. We strive to bring you the articles, information, and community you need to succeed.”

Grow – A blog by Mark Schaefer and guest authors with posts on growing your company, reputation, customers, impact, profits and yourself.

LinkedIn – Whether it’s suggested industry articles by LinkedIn, reading the LinkedIn blog, articles recommended by your network contacts, or using the Signal feature to filter news and stay updated on your professional network, I use LinkedIn on a daily basis.

MarketingProfs – They describe themselves as, “Our editorial team cuts through all of this marketing noise to find the experts and in-the-trenches marketers who know what they are talking about. Then we take their know-how and mix it with our marketing smarts to turn it into practical advice that you can actually use through our newsletters, conferences, seminars, podcast, articles, and webcasts.”

Mashable – This site “is a leading source for news, information & resources for the Connected Generation. Mashable reports on the importance of digital innovation and how it empowers and inspires people around the world.”

Personal Branding Blog – This blog, “teaches you how to create your career and command your future, using the personal branding process. You will learn how to position yourself for success so that you become known for your passion and expertise.”

Search Engine Watch – According to their website, “Search Engine Watch provides tips and information about searching the web, analysis of the search engine industry and help to site owners trying to improve their ability to be found in search engines.”

Social Media Examiner – They describe themselves as “The world’s largest online social media magazine, Social Media Examiner helps businesses discover how to best use social media, blogs and podcasts to connect with customers, drive traffic, generate more brand awareness and increase sales.”

Who’s Blogging What – This is an email newsletter with links to articles and blog posts.  You can use it “to stay current on social media, search marketing, user experience, email, web analytics and all of the latest developments of web marketing.”

Perhaps in a future post I’ll detail the local bloggers I follow and/or know personally.  What are some of your favorite blogs and how do they help your career?

Mixing Work With Work

Harvey Research, Harvey Research Inc., Magazine Research, Advertising Research, Editorial Research, Print Advertising Research, Publication Research, Advertising Effectiveness, Tablet Magazine Research, Publisher Research, Ad Effectiveness Study, Magazine Apps Research, Reader Profile Study, Content Publishing Research, Magazine Research Analysis, Media Research, Magazine Ad Research, Audience Research, Website Research, Apps Research, Mobile Apps Research, Panel Research, Digital Media ResearchMy “day job” is Vice President, Senior Research Officer with Harvey Research.  It’s a small market research company in Fairport, NY that specializes in advertising and publishing research.  We work with B2B/Technical publications as well as B2C/Consumer publications from virtually every industry and special interest category you can think of.  One of the things I love most about my work is that I get to learn a little about many different industries!

Harvey Research recently launched a new website, which contains a blog.  I thought the regular readers of this blog might find it interesting to get a peek into my work at Harvey.  The first two posts I’ve written for the Harvey blog examine the impact that ad size and ad color have on advertisement recall.

The impact of ad color:  http://bit.ly/Z5K6nR

The impact of ad size:  http://bit.ly/14PuAkK

If you like the Harvey blog, we’d love to have you subscribe to it.  🙂  And if you have ideas for future blog posts (this blog or the Harvey blog), I’m certainly open to suggestions and ideas.  Thanks for reading!

A Social Media Storm

Many watched the progress of Hurricane Sandy and reports of the devastation it caused.  Nicknamed “The Perfect Storm” and “Frakenstorm,” the images of destruction were shocking.  I hope you and your family survived the event safely and with minimal damage.  I’m very thankful that my family did, including those directly in the path.

This isn’t the first major storm where social media played an important role in reporting the news.  However, I did find it interesting that so many media outlets encouraged viewers/readers to engage them via social media to get current news.  Rather than wait for the next news cycle, which could be hours away, people were encouraged to follow on Twitter, friend on Facebook, pin to Pinterest, download weather apps, etc., etc.  It makes me wonder how many new followers/friends/app users these media outlets gained as a result of this natural disaster.

While social media is a great resource for current news as it unfolds, you do need to be cautious of what’s posted in terms of accuracy.  I had several friends share pictures to social media that were allegedly taken during the storm.  Virtually all turned out to be a hoax – either doctored using Photoshop or taken from a disaster movie.

With smart phones becoming the dominant type of cell phone and tablets increasing in usage, people could stay connected with friends, family and media – even if their home lost power.  In America, we’ve come a long way from candles and transistor radios.  Several friends who lost power could still post messages to Facebook letting friends and family know their situation.

Having grown up in New Jersey, I have several friends and family in that area who were significantly impacted.  My thoughts and prayers are with them and I hope their recovery is quick and smooth.

How did you use social media during Hurricane Sandy?

Five Reasons Why Job Seekers Must Blog

Looking for work is a full-time job but with a horrible “paycheck.”  I know first-hand, as I’ve previously spent an extended period of time looking for work.  I’ve often been asked, “if you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently?”

To this day, my answer is always . . . . blog.  When I was unemployed, I had dozens of people suggest to me that I should blog.  At the time, I had my excuses crafted:  I don’t have time, I don’t know what to write, it will detract from more important job search tasks, people won’t find value in what I have to say, etc., etc.

Since I’ve successfully navigated those waters, I can say from personal experience, these are five reasons that job seekers must blog:

  1. Improve Visibility & SEO.  You need to be active and visible if you want to be found.  While Google will find your LinkedIn profile, it simply isn’t enough.  SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization (improving the natural or “organic” way your site is found via search engines like Google or Bing).  Add to your digital footprint and improve your SEO by creating and maintaining a blog.  Google ♥ blogs because it’s fresh content.
  2. Exemplify Subject Matter Expertise.  What if your resume or LinkedIn profile isn’t read?  What if it’s read, but your expertise doesn’t come across?  Having a blog allows you to demonstrate your subject matter expertise with each post.  Repetition demonstrates your experience and knowledge.
  3. Demonstrate Personality.  By writing a blog, your personality comes through.  Readers get a sense of your style, your passion, your humor.  It takes what’s typically a very 2-D digital footprint and transforms it into 3-D.
  4. Personal Branding & Differentiation.  Most LinkedIn profiles look alike, aside from a few differentiators.  Since you can only customize your LinkedIn profile to a very limited extent, writing a blog allows you to creatively market yourself.  Open jobs often receive hundreds of applicants.  How can you stand out from the competition?  Try blogging!
  5. Proactively Share SCAR/STAR Stories.  A common interviewing strategy is to share a SCAR (“Situation/Challenge/Action/Result”) or STAR (“Situation/Tactic/Action/Result”) Story with the interviewer to demonstrate your experience, problem solving ability and value to the organization.  That’s great, but you need to get the interview in order to tell that story, right?  Not if you have a blog!  SCAR/STAR Stories can be great fodder for blog posts.

And, if you’d like a bonus reason, creating and maintaining a blog gives you the added skill sets of writing, content management, web development, marketing/promotions, publishing and social media!

Is blogging time consuming?  Yes, but make the time – it’s worth it!  Will people find value in what you have to say?  Yes, you’ll be surprised!  If your goal is to be found, be viewed as an industry expert, show some personality and differentiate yourself from the competition, then you must blog!

10 Ways to Increase Blog Comments

A friend recently asked for my advice on increasing comments for her blog.  That’s not necessarily an easy question to answer. In general, it’s a lot of little things working together that help increase blog comments.  Here’s a quick list of 10 tips:

  1. Write something that can be read quickly and easily. People are busy and tend to want something they can “digest.” If the topic is worthy of a lengthy post, consider splitting it into 2 or 3 parts.
  2. Try to end the blog post with a call to action. Ask a question that cannot be answered with just a “yes” or “no” response.
  3. When people comment, thank them for taking the time to read and comment. Depending on what they write, see if you can engage them further (via the commenting section) by asking a follow-up question, or having them explain something in greater detail, etc.
  4. Entertain and enlighten. I try to make sure that I’m doing at least one of those and preferably both. You’ll get repeat visitors if you can accomplish both often. Over time, they might become more comfortable commenting.
  5. Make sure you promote your blog heavily via social media channels. I’ve found LinkedIn Groups to be a great source, although I do get visitors from Twitter, Facebook, my LinkedIn status update, and Google+ too. Some LinkedIn groups are completely open and will allow you to post without joining the group. It’s a way to extend your reach beyond the 50 groups you’re limited in joining.  Better promotion can bring new readers.  If you’re getting the same response (or lack thereof) from your regular readers, new readers could bring a new response.
  6. Don’t expect instant results. Readership is a gradual build. Even your most loyal readers may not read all of your posts, nor find all of them relevant. To borrow from the movie Field of Dreams, write it and they will come.
  7. Sometimes the comments aren’t where you’d like them to be. When you promote via social media, sometimes the comments are made in social media rather than on your blog page where it “counts.” That’s okay – still thank them for taking the time to read and comment.
  8. Try to follow a regular posting schedule. Whether it’s 1x/week or 1x/month, try to communicate your schedule and follow it so people begin to expect it. It then helps build a relationship with your audience.
  9. Try to avoid controversial subjects.  If “spun” properly, it could generate comments as people might take one side vs. the other because controversy breeds attention and passion. But, it could also backfire if people feel alienated or afraid to comment on something controversial.  For me (a personal decision), I avoid it.
  10. Comment on others’ blog posts and “like” their posts if that’s an option. Blogging is very much a social media platform. There are many who will “return the favor” after you’ve liked and/or commented on their posts.

Fellow bloggers, what tips or suggestions did I miss that you can add?

A New Advertising World – Part 1

Depending on your television viewing habits, you may have noticed a gradual change in advertising over the past few years.

Not too long ago, prescription drug manufacturers could not advertise on television.  Instead, they focused on trade/B2B magazines targeted to physicians and other medical industry professionals (as well as direct mail, trade shows, branded merchandise and samples).  I measured the effectiveness of literally thousands of these advertisements, in dozens of publications, over many years.  Print advertising rates are based on many factors, but are primarily driven by audience size (circulation quantity), quality (subscriber profile), page size, page color and frequency.

It was quite apparent that these companies had large budgets when it came to advertising.  Instead of the standard one page advertisement with color, their advertising was often 4+ pages printed on heavy-weight glossy card stock.  And sometimes, they would advertise more than once within the same issue.  Because most people outside of the medical industry don’t have the opportunity to see this kind of advertising, what you also missed was a page or two (or more!) of contraindications.  That’s a fancy word for side effects, how the drugs interact with other drugs and conditions that would warrant avoiding the drug and complications that could arise as a result of taking it.

Fast-forward several years and regulations have been lessened to allow drug manufacturers to advertise on television.  Most drug manufacturers jumped at the chance to advertise on television because it brought prestige to their product.

The biggest change is that they’re no longer targeting the doctors and medical industry professionals but the end-consumers and patients.  “Ask your doctor about [drug name here]” is the new normal.  They’ve altered the marketing dynamic by creating consumer demand to supplement physician knowledge.

What hasn’t changed?  The need to incorporate the contraindications as part of the advertising.  So the same commercial that spends time praising the amazing benefits of the drug being advertised must also spend time telling you all the bad things that could happen too.  While it’s probably a good thing that they have to disclose that information, they’re sharing it with those who aren’t qualified to make complicated prescription decisions.

Is having to include negative information in the commercial ultimately hurting their marketing efforts?  There’s certainly an increased volume of television commercials for prescription products.

Why do you think they’re working?  Do you think people simply tune-out that part of the message, or is there some other reason?  Or, do you think they don’t work and the drug manufacturers simply have a budget large enough to advertise on television despite incorporating a negative message?

Part 2 on this topic has been published.

Learning With Perspective

I recently met with a prospective client and one of the things we discussed was my blog.  I’m always interested to hear what people think about it – their likes, dislikes and favorite posts.  What’s interesting is the different messages people take from the same blog.  It’s a great example of perspective and how it influences your interaction and learning.

For example, my three most recent blog posts were The Most Important Rule of Connecting, Social Media Abandonment and Big Lessons from a Mini Contest.  If you read them, on the surface they were about social networking, social media and marketing/contests respectively.

Depending on your perspective, you may have read those posts and taken away different messages.  Hopefully a small business owner read those posts and tried to apply the information to his/her business.  Hopefully a job seeker read those posts and applied the lessons to his/her job search.  Someone in marketing hopefully took away different points too.

I’m not sure that enough people read and learn with perspective.  As I review the analytics of my previous posts, the ones with the most views and comments tend to be the ones that are the most universal – at least on the surface.  I suppose in today’s world where we must compete for limited attention spans and available time, that’s natural and not very surprising.

As an author of a blog with weekly content, I have to decide how to properly craft both the content and the headline.  There’s a line between being so specific that you limit your potential audience, versus being so broad that you mislead your potential audience.  There’s a line between wanting to grow your blog readership “organically” versus sensationalism.

The most “popular” blog of my previous three was The Most Important Rule of Connecting.  It drew almost 4x more than the others, despite similar promotion.  Perhaps it’s because there’s somewhat of a universal application to most readers, whether it’s connecting for business or for personal reasons.  Perhaps, people didn’t have to read that post using their “perspective glasses” compared to the others.

So how about you?  Now that I’ve drawn your attention to reading with perspective, what new things have you learned from my previous posts?  Is there one post in particular you learned the most from?  Is there a particular topic you’d like to see me cover in a future post?  As always, thank you for reading!